Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rebirth of the Sun

Photo of Druids and Pagans celebrating the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, photo by Mat Cardy, credit to framework.latimes.com

A Joyous Yuletide, or Winter Solstice, to all!

Do you know where the word Yule comes from? Well, it's related to the Norse god Odin. One of his many names is Jolnir, meaning "Yule father." In fact, Yule started as an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by Germanic Pagans. We still retain many of their Yule traditions including the Yule log, the Yule goat, eating ham or boar, and caroling. Another ancient festival that influenced the holiday season as we know it is the Roman Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a week long celebration held in honor of the god Saturn. It was celebrated with gift giving, gambling, feasting, and granting special privileges to slaves. The Celts also had a midwinter festival, and although not much is known about it we do know that that is where the tradition of hanging mistletoe (a symbol of virility) comes from.

Well, that was then. This is now. How do modern Pagans celebrate the holiday season? Well, there are many different traditions, but in Wicca much attention is paid to the fact that this is the longest night of the year. After this the days grow longer and stronger. This is the time in which the Horned God (in the form of the sun) is reborn again. All matter of young sun gods and mother goddesses are honored on this season.

Here are the ways in which we party:

  • Not surprisingly, many traditions will be familiar to people who celebrate Christmas. Pagans also decorate a tree, hang mistletoe and stockings, give gifts, and spend time with loved ones. They give charity and kindness to strangers just like everyone else does.
  • It's getting a bit redundant to say that Pagan holidays are celebrated by lighting things on fire, but it's true. It's traditional to keep the Yule log burning all through the night of Yuletide Eve and Yule. At the very least, Pagans will have a Yule log as a decoration.
  • There are various gift giving spirits for the holiday season. Some Pagans still wait for Santa Claus, especially if they have an interfaith family. One favorite for Wiccans is the Holly King who, along with the Oak King, represent the Horned God. The two battle for supremacy with the youthful Oak King winning until Midsummer. In some rituals Pagans may reenact this battle.
  • For feasting the traditional foods are ham, chicken, turkey, duck, chestnuts, oranges, apples, figs, plums, pomegranates, pears, potatoes, gingerbread, caraway, and the usual assortment of cookies. Some like to make wassail, which is a spicy fruit punch that may or may not be alcoholic. There might also be a yule log cake, a.k.a. a buche de noel.
  • Some Pagans like to celebrate "twelve days of Yule" by honoring twelve specific deities or spirits each day starting on the Solstice.
  • Yuletide is a great time of year for making plans for the future. Casting spells that have to do with rebirth and new beginnings are common.

And now for a massive holiday dumping of names, because I love giving the gift of name inspiration:

Mythical beings associated with the season:

Holly King & Oak King (So probably just Holly and Oak, Arguably Celtic)

Odin (Norse)

Mithras (Mithraic)

Saturn (Roman)

Apollo (Greek & Roman)

Santa Claus (or Nicholas, Christian)

Alcyone (Greek)

Horus (Egyptian)

Osiris (Egyptian)

Frigga (Norse)

Dionysus (Roman)

Frau Holle (German)

Ameratasu (Japanese)

La Befana (Italian Christian)

Juno (Roman)

Isis (Egyptian)

Ceres (Roman)

Demeter (Greek)

Nephthys (Egyptian)

Arianrhod (Welsh)

Cerridwen (Welsh)

Freya (Norse)

Gaia (Greek)

Morrigan (Irish)

Fortuna (Roman)

Other suggestions:

Yule

December

Decembra

Decimus

Winter

Midwinter

Solstice

Sol

Invictus

Invicta

Sunny

Sunshine

Io

Golden

Silver

Crimson

Garnet

Emerald

Rosemary

Orion

Wren

Robin

Draco

Klaus

Mistletoe

Ivy

Clove

Tannen

Snowlily

Cinnamon

Ginger

Hibiscus

Dove

Paloma

Cardinal

North

Renata ("reborn")

Ravi ("sun")

Zohara ("light, brilliance")

Carol

Phoebus ("bright, pure")

Phoebe

Noel ("birth")

Natalie

Orange

Nutmeg

Caraway

Glimmer

Radiance

Mirth

Joy

Jolie

Dawn

Poinsettia

Lucia

Luz

Lux

Evergreen

Spruce

Pine

Branch

Bay

Juniper

Cressida ("golden")

Rime ("frost")

Frost

Snowden

Alban ("white")

Festus

Allegra ("cheerful, lively")

Drummer

Isolde ("ice battle")

Farah ("joy")

Felicity

Festus

Hilary ("cheerful")

Merry

Turquoise

Elk

Onyx

Jupiter

Lettice ("joy, happiness")

Lowender ("mirth")

Dora ("gift")

Antler

Garland

Acorn

Fun combo time:

Felicity Rime

Yule Evergreen

Klaus Garland

Juniper Allegra

Draco Drummer

Fortuna Lux

Phoebus North

Rosemary Snow

Io Golden

Apollo Wren

Orion Sol

Robin Jolie

Paloma Solstice

Ravi Oak

Noel Caraway

Capricorn the Surefooted

"The Two Goats" by Gustave Dore

"Only a fool hopes to repeat an experience; the wise man knows that every experience is to be viewed as a blessing."
--Henry Miller, author and Capricorn

Many modern Pagans prefer to pick names based on astrological signs. Yes, I know I just finished doing a series of posts very similar to this on the old blog, but this time I'm not limiting myself to thirteen names. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names by K. M. Sheard is an excellent resource for finding names to go with specific astrological signs, so if you want even more options than the ones I list here go find that book.

The sign of Capricorn starts on the solstice (usually December 22) and ends around January 19. Capricorns are nowadays associated with mountain goats, but in the ancient past they were symbolized by a mythical hybrid goat-fish. This is interesting because the goat's head would suggest a realistic and grounded approach to life, while the fish bottom would suggest emotional and spiritual depth. Capricorn is arguably the most resourceful of all the signs. They know how to work hard and get things done. Generally, they are reserved and standoffish unless the rest of their chart has flamboyant signs. They tend to turn their noses up at things they deem to frivolous and are not the type of people that take a lot of risks in life. They also have a bit of a materialistic streak and can have an obsession with status symbols.

Again, "sensible" names tend to be more appropriate for earth signs, but I got a mix of styles here.

Goat/horn/hybrid creature names:

Faun
Pan
Amalthea
Giles
Thor
Thora
Griffin

Earth and (to a lesser extent) water names:

George ("farmer")
Georgia
Octavian
Octavia
Terra
Ceres ("to grow")
Demeter ("earth mother")
Sita ("furrow")
Gardner
Meadow
Valley
Willow
Turqouise
Rosmerta
Ocean
Fisher
Mina ("fish")

Time names:

December
Decembra
Decimus
January
Janus
Winter
Solstice
Yule

Green, purple, black, and grey names:

Jet
Raven
Onyx
Sable
Evergreen
Olive
Midori
Viridiana
Forrest
Emerald
Esmeralda
Plum
Lavender
Amethyst
Greyson
Wolf
Ash
Shadow
Cole

Attribute names:

Severine ("severe")
Severus
Caprice
Wisdom
Sage
Frodo ("wise")
Cato ("wise")
Sophia ("wisdom")
Clemency ("mercy")
Clement
Pia ("pious")
True
Truly
Vera ("true")
Fidel ("loyal")
Loyal
Perseverance
Faith
Prosper
Boniface ("good fate")
Millicent ("work+strong")
Ida ("work, labor")
Emmeline ("work")
Ophelia ("help")
Amias ("friend")

Other ideas:

Garnet
Hypatia
Siddhartha
Dove
Hazel
Yew
Beowulf
Artemis
Saga
Melissa
Solomon
Saturn
Ruby
Nester
Paloma
Dove
Minerva
Theodore
Theodosia
Deborah
Juniper
Clove
Vesper
Alma

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yuletide Carols


After I became a Wiccan I couldn't bear the thought of playing Jesus-y songs during my Yuletide. Or, for that matter, very materialistic songs. I hate "Santa Baby" with a flaming passion. Anyway, a few years ago I started aggressively looking for proper Yuletide carols. I love listening to great holiday music. I was in bands and orchestras throughout most of my growing-up years after all.

Anyone who has tried to do this before knows that they'll find a lot of Christian Christmas songs with Pagany lyrics. You know, "God Rest Ye Merry Paganfolk," "Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland," "Share the Light" to the tune of "The First Noel." Pass. They bother me because they feel like mockery. It's okay sometimes, depending on how it's done but mostly I wanted something more genuine. And in any case, you can't find mp3s for any of these.

So how did it go? Terrifically, actually. I really don't understand it when other Pagans say that it's so hard to find non-Christian holiday songs. You just need to know where and how to look.

So as a present to all of you, here is my Yuletide carol playlist. It would have taken forever to find links for all of these, but rest assured that I found all of these on the Internet. Some are from amazon, some are from bandcamp, and some are from free music blogs. You could probably tell that my music tastes generally fall into the indie/folksy camp. If you guys know any other great Yuletide songs feel free to leave them in the comments!

Carols that are either overtly Pagan or about the Winter Solstice:

"Lady Greensleeves" -- Julianne Marx and Craig Olson
"Ring Out Solstice Bells" -- Jethro Tull
"Patapan" -- Damh the Bard
"Solstice" -- Andy Ditzler
"The Cutty Wren" -- Damh the Bard
"Santa Claus is Pagan Too" -- Emerald Rose
"Bold Orion" -- Susan Mckeown and Lindsey Horner
"Holly, Ivy, and Rose" -- Tori Amos
"Solstice Night" -- Julianne Marx and Craig Olson
"Wintry Queen" -- Coyote Run
"Hunting the Wren" -- Steeleye Span
"On Midwinter's Day" -- Damh the Bard
"The Longest Night of the Year" -- Mary Chapin Carpenter
"Winter's Carol" -- Tori Amos
"The Winter King" -- Damh the Bard
"Thank You Sunshine" -- Zucchini Brothers
"Rozhanitsa" -- Julianne Marx and Crag Olson
"The Christians and the Pagans" -- Dar Williams (although I have to admit that I think Darryl Purpose's cover is better than the original.)
"Wintergrace" -- Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum

Carols that could be about either Yuletide and Christmas:

"Deck the Halls" -- 11 Acorn Lane
"Here We Come A-Wassailing" -- Kate Rusby
"Walking in the Air" -- Chloe Agnew (If you grew up watching The Snowman you know this song.)
"The Boar's Head Carol" -- Katie McMahon
"The Wassailing Song" -- The Grizzly Folk
"Dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy" -- Pentatonix (or really anything from The Nutcracker.)
"Patapan" -- Heather Dale
"Mistletoe" -- Indigo Girls
"Frosty the Snowman" -- Fiona Apple

Wintry Carols:

"The January Man" -- Bert Jansch
"Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" -- Emilie-Claire Barlow
"Wishes" -- The Bird and the Bee
"Congratulations (A Happy New Year Song)" -- Pink Martini
"The Hounds of Winter" -- Sting
"Winter Song" -- Ingrid Michaelson
"Winter Solstice" -- Jordan O'Jordan
"Tracks in the Snow" -- The Civil Wars
"Song for a Winter's Night" -- Domestic Crisis Group (The version by Sarah McLachlan is probably the most famous.)
"Aspenglow" -- Lovespirals
"Sleigh Ride" -- She & Him
"Baby It's Cold Outside" -- Ray Charles & Betty Carter
"White Winter Hymnal" -- Pentatonix
"My December" -- Scala & Kolacny Brothers
"Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)" -- Laura Marling
"The Atheist Christmas Carol" -- Vienna Teng

I know it's for Christmas but I'm keeping it anyway:

"The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve" -- The Chieftains
"Jingle Bells?" -- Barbra Streisand
"Christmas is Interesting" -- Jonathan Coulton
"I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus" -- Amy Winehouse
"This Endris Night" -- Heather Dale
"Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake" -- Robbie O'Connell
"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" -- Amy Mann
"Feliz Navidad" -- Jose Feliciano (and another version by Sea of Bees.)
"Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24" -- Trans-Siberian Orchestra (a.k.a. the hard rock Carol of the Bells.)
"River" -- Rosie Thomas

Songs I associate with the season:

"Auld Lang Syne" -- Salsa Celtica (and another version by Pink Martini.)
"When the River Meets the Sea" -- John Denver with the Muppets
"Here Comes the Sun" -- Yo-Yo Ma (The Beatles version sounds more appropriate for Summer Solstice to me.)
"Give a Little Bit" -- Supertramp
"To Try for the Sun" by Donovan

Naturally, these songs will inspire some names:

Carol

Song

Solstice

Greensleeves

Marx

Olson

Jethro

Wren

Damh

Bard

Emerald

Rose

Orion

Holly

Ivy

Amos

Queen

Coyote

Sunshine

Rozhanitsa

Dar

Wintergrace

Acorn

Chloe

Plum

Pan

Heather

Indigo

Mistletoe

January

Emilie

Wish

Bird

Ingrid

Jordan

Fiona

Apple

Snow

Aspen

Glow

Ray

Hymnal

December

Vienna

Chieftain

Bell

Jonathan

Amy

Fogarty

Feliz

Navidad

River

Denver

Donovan

And here are some lovely combos:

Donovan Hymnal

Wren Solstice

Jethro Denver

Amy Wintergrace

River Navidad

Ingrid Bird

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Name Magpie: New Names for All

I have finished my classes! I have my TEFL certificate! Now I have to go job hunting. I know I've been quiet, but all through my personal madness I've kept my eye out for new gems:

Indre. I forget where I first saw this, but I believe whatever I was reading was about France in some way. I thought that this was a French form of India. It's actually the name of a river. It might also be a Norse name.

Gotham. This is the name of Deepak Chopra's son. Obviously, my first thought was Gotham City but somehow I don't peg Deepak Chopra as a comic book fan. My theory is that it's a respelling of Gaotam, meaning "one who dispels darkness," but I'm not certain.

Dorigen. Another one from Appellation Mountain. Dorigen is a character in The Canterbury Tales, a book that I have not gotten around to reading yet.

Annelore. I've been lusting after these books for a while, but I'm didn't pay attention to the author's name before. It's either a variant of Anna or it's Hannelore without the H, depending on who you ask.

Bellafaye. A smoosh-name of Bella and Faye meaning "beautiful fairy," found over here. It does remind me a bit of Harry Belafonte. You know who Harry Belafonte is. Trust me.

Fernway. From The Beauty of Names, it's apparently the name of a film character played by Lena Horn.

Suchart. Also from The Beauty of Names, this is a Thai name meaning "born into a good life."

Rime. This is used as a place name for a lot of fantasy franchises. It's an old word that roughly means "frost." Rime is still sometimes used as a word in Scotland, but it has become obsolete elsewhere. It sounds like "rhyme."

Matisse. Of course I've heard the name Matisse before. I did major in fine arts after all. But this was the first time I've seen it on a little girl.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Virtuous Names



Name blogs are usually filled with posts about virtue names this time of year. At least the ones written by Americans are. That's because Thanksgiving is coming and many people are reminded of the Puritans and all of the strange word-names that they liked to use. Well, Grace and Hope aren't that strange, but Fly-fornication and  Job-raked-out-of-the-ashes certainly are.

While I am definitely not a fan of the Puritan belief system, I am a fan of many of the names they used. Oceanus and Peregrine are two of my personal favorites. And I do like the idea of naming a child after a core value (so long as they are not weird, sexually repressive values like Chastity and Modesty).

So naturally, I'm inspired to write a list of virtue names. Of course most are a little unusual, but this is me we're talking about here.

Fortitude ("courage in pain or adversity")

Merit

Clemency ("mercy")

Comfort

Concord ("agreement or harmony between people or groups")

Brave

Bravery

Mirth

Charm

Eloquence ("fluent or persuasive speaking or writing")

Resolute ("purposeful, determined, unwavering")

Bravura ("great technical skill")

Virtue

Remember

Remembrance

Silence

Love

Verity ("truth")

Courage

Honor

Independence

Charisma ("compelling attractiveness or charm")

Candor ("honesty")

Freedom

Wisdom

Unity

Noble

Resilience ("the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties")

Peaceful

Makepeace

Reason

Clarity

Revere

Valor

Prudence

Truth

Credence ("belief or acceptance that something is true")

Placid ("calm")

Desire

Jolly

Liberty

Tenacious ("persisting in existence, not easily expelled")

Felicity ("happiness")

Amity ("a friendly relationship")

Gravitas ("dignity or seriousness")

Sage ("wise")

Bliss

Glory

Loyal

Prosper

Justice

Temperance ("moderation or self-restraint")

Merry

Solace ("comfort in times of distress")

Wonder ("desire or curiosity to know something")

Zeal ("great energy or enthusiasm")

Pride

Levity ("humor or frivolity")

Lively ("full of life and energy")

Aspire ("direct one's hopes or ambitions toward achieving something")

Tranquil

Integrity ("the quality of having strong moral principles")

Providence ("the protective power of God or nature")

Radiance

Lucky

Mighty

Gratitude

Ardor ("enthusiasm or passion")

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sagittarius the Archer

"Centaur at the Village Blacksmith's Shop" by Arnold Bocklin
 
"Why not seize the pleasure at once?"
--Jane Austen, author and Sagittarius

Many modern Pagans prefer to pick names based on astrological signs. Yes, I know I just finished doing a series of posts very similar to this on the old blog, but this time I'm not limiting myself to thirteen names. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names by K. M. Sheard is an excellent resource for finding names to go with specific astrological signs, so if you want even more options than the ones I list here go find that book.

Today, the sun enters Sagittarius. Sagittarius usually runs from November 22 to December 23 depending on the year. The symbol of Sagittarians is the centaur. In Greek mythology centaurs often give into their animalistic impulses, but they are also wise, adventurous, and brave. These are qualities that Sagittarians embody. Sagittarians are generally easygoing people that have no problems making friends wherever they go. They love to learn and have a great sense of idealism. However, Sagittarius is a fire sign, so they can have a nasty temper. Their blind faith in the goodness of the world can get them into trouble, and their need for adventure can make them seem irresponsible.

Archer names:

Archer
Bow
Bowman
Arrow
Artemis
Robin
Apollo
Cupid
Niko
Rama
Arjuna
Katniss (I couldn't resist.)

Horse names:

Eponine
Kishore
Phillip
Phillipa
Rosalind
Lorimer
Hippolytos

Adventure/travel names:

Peregrine
Journey
Odyssey
Rover
Sojourner
Faramond
Rumer
Atlas
Gypsy
Meander
Walker
Palmiro
Palmer
Beatrix

Fire Names:

Draco
Drake
Seraphim
Seraph
Seraphina
Phoenix
Sirius
Blaze

Time names:

November
December
Winter
Yule
Solstice

White, blue, and purple names:

Blue
Azure
Sapphire
Turquoise
Bianca
Albus
Leocadia
Gwen
Albion
Haku
Lavender
Plum
Viola
Violet

Attribute Names:

Admetus ("untamed")
Noble
Junius ("youth")
Wilder
Wilde
Cleo ("fame, glory")
Verabel
True
Truly
Verity ("truth")
Fortuna ("lucky")
Prosper
Fabrizio ("craftsman")
Fabrice
Wisdom
Joy
Lively
Allegra ("cheerful, lively")
Levity

Other Ideas:

Gita
Snowden
Isotta
Ballad
Wolf
Juniper
Raphael
Franco
Onyx
Jove
Venice
Fifer
North
Romulus
Romilly
Fern
Ganesh
Aisling
Edward
Malachite
Reverie
Otter
Paris

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Witch's New Year


"Faust" by Luis Ricardo Falero

A Blessed Samhain, or Witch's New Year, to you!

First of all, how does one pronounce Samhain? I still occasionally slip into pronouncing it like "sam-hain," which is embarrassing. Neil Gaiman went on a talk show and joked about "Sam Hain: Private Eye" and now I can't get it out of my head. Anyway, I've heard that in Ireland it's "sow-in," in Wales it's "sow-een," and in Scotland it's "sav-en." And that's not even all of the ways to say it. Personally, I try to do the Irish pronunciation.

Samhain (Gaelic for "summer's end") is the most important sabbat for Wiccans and the most magical time of the year. It is the third and final harvest festival on the Wheel of the Year. It was a holiday celebrated by the Celts as a way to herald the coming winter and honor those who had passed. It is believed that the dead walk amongst the living on this holiday, and the tradition of leaving offerings of food for them is very old.

There is no specific deity for this season like there was for Lughnasadh and Mabon. In Wiccan tradition, the Horned God (a.k.a. the sun) dies on this day, so generally Samhain is all about the Goddess. Pagans honor crone goddesses on this season, and also various deities of death.

A lot of the time, Samhain and Halloween traditions are mixed together. Aside from the more common Halloween traditions that everyone is familiar with, here are a few ways in which Pagans celebrate Samhain.

  • Samhain is a festival in which Pagans honor the ancestors, or the "beloved dead." Altars usually include the photographs and belongings of those who have passed away. Candles are left on windowsills to show loved ones the way back home. Apples are left on grave sites and at cemeteries.
  • It's also time for yet another feast. Traditional foods in a Samhain feast include pumpkin, turnips, beats, apples, pomegranates, potatoes, popcorn, gingerbread, beef, poultry, and nuts. Some people prepare food that their beloved dead enjoyed. One plate of food would be left for the dead, either at the altar or the head of the table.
  • Samhain is considered a great time for divination and meditation. Fun fact: using divination to find out who your future husband will be used to be so common on Halloween that at one point it was considered a "women's holiday." The game of "bobbing for apples" comes from an old divination practice. The apples would be hung from trees or the ceiling instead of floating in a barrel of water.
  • You know, if it's a Pagan holiday you should just assume that fire is going to play a role somehow. One of the things that the Celts did on Samhain was light bonfires, and that tradition still survives. Sometimes Pagans write habits, feelings, or activities that they wish to let go of on a piece of paper and cast them into the fire. Other times they simply circle around and tell stories.
There are a lot of wonderful, witchy names that can be inspired by this season, but here are just a few:

Mythical beings associated with the season:

Lilith (Jewish)

Hecate (Greek)

Pluto (Roman)

Aradia (Italian)

Cerridwen (Celtic)

Odin (Norse)

Nicevenn (Scottish)

Anubis (Egyptian)

Pomona (Roman)

Persephone (Greek/Roman)

Kali (Hindu)

Nephthys (Egyptian)

Morana (Slavic)

Osiris (Egyptian)

Morrigan (Celtic)

Thanatos (Greek)

Rhiannon (Welsh)

Other suggestions:

October

Octavian

Ottavia

Octavie

November

Hallow

Autumn

Autumnus

Harvest

Night

Nox

Nyx

Midnight

Raven

Luna ("moon")

Apple

Marigold

Sable

Noir

Ebony

Jet

Crimson

Orange

Spirit

Circe

Evening

Menos ("spirit")

Remember

Remembrance

Opal

Cypress

Hazel

Enid ("soul" or "life")

Dusk

Faline ("cat-like")

Onyx

Silver

Jack

Dittany

Thistle

Belladonna

Vaidote ("ghost-like")

Elder

Mist

Grey

Secret

Surrender

Melanie ("black, dark")

Rowan

Shadow

Obsidian

Esmeray ("dark moon")

Samantha

Isra ("night journey")

Olaf ("ancestor's descendent")

Alma ("soul")

Miyako ("beautiful night child")

Fun combo time:

Sable Pomona

Jack Silver

Rowan Grey

Lilith Esmeray

Samantha Rowan

Octavian Nox

Aradia Raven

Rhiannon November

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Misgivings

Since I want to talk about more than names here, I feel like I can discus a topic that I have very complicated feelings about. As a Wiccan, how much should I really care about Halloween?

Obviously, I care about Samhain. It's arguably the most important Sabbat on the Wheel of the Year. But contrary to popular believe, they're not the same holiday. They're not even on the same day period. Samhain is on November 1.

Don't believe me? Think about it. All of the Wiccan holidays are evenly spaced in reliable month-and-a-half long increments. They're never at the end of a month, they're always in the middle or the beginning. Halloween is Samhain Eve. So technically a Pagan could celebrate both Halloween and Samhain as completely separate holidays. But most don't. They lump them together.

There really isn't much that's Pagan about the modern American Halloween. It's true that the Celts celebrated a harvest festival at around the same time, and that it was associated with the dead. But there's no clear evidence that they dressed in costumes. They did not go from door to door begging for treats. Being "scared" or "scary" had no part in it. The only detail that ties the two holidays together are the harvest foods.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently. As I've mentioned before, I'm planning on moving abroad. Apparently, Halloween is not as universal as I had assumed it was. I expected Asia and Africa to not have a Halloween, but it's not celebrated in most parts of Europe and South America either. Aside from the United States and Canada, it seems like it only has deep roots in England and Ireland (and, of course, Mexico has Dia de la Muerte). Almost everyone else sees it as an annoying, commercialist American thing. I am older than Halloween celebrations in Germany. Should I start a family in a foreign country, my children could possibly never celebrate Halloween.

I didn't used to be this cynical about this holiday. I used to love it when I was a kid. But Halloween has lost it's childlike wonder since then, and I don't think it's my imagination. Despite the fact that we are spending more money on this holiday than ever before, the number of trick-or-treaters is lower and lower with every passing year. It's evolving into more of an adult holiday. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Halloween is considered by many to be a Pagan holiday, and there is a grain of truth in that. It's also a Catholic holiday. But mostly it's...nothing. So I don't feel like I would be a bad Wiccan by not paying attention to it.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a Samhain name round-up.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scorpio the Reborn

"The Zodiac, Scorpio" by Erte

"You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question."
--Albert Camus, author and Scorpio.

Many modern Pagans prefer to pick names based on astrological signs. Yes, I know I just finished doing a series of posts very similar to this on the old blog, but this time I'm not limiting myself to thirteen names. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names by K. M. Sheard is an excellent resource for finding names to go with specific astrological signs, so if you want even more options than the ones I list here go find that book.

Today the sun switches to a sign that is very dear to my heart since most of my astrological chart is almost nothing but Scorpio and Aries. Scorpio lasts roughly from October 23 to November 23. This sign is symbolized by the scorpion, but also the eagle. In the olden days, Scorpio was associated with death and was therefore an unlucky sign to be born under. It's not for nothing that the height of Scorpio's power is on Samhain. Since then, we've become more enlightened and Scorpio now represents rebirth. Scorpio is the most fiery of the water signs. People born under this sign are known for their intense emotions and for embracing the darker side of life. Their personalities can be very catlike in that they do what they want to do when they want to do it. Scorpios also have a tremendous amount of power, and are not easily intimidated. On the negative side, they can be pessimistic and overly serious. Once they learn optimism, they can have amazing regenerative energy.

Death/rebirth names:

Phoenix
Wren
Viva ("live")
Osiris
Pluto
Persephone
Dusk
Dawn
Chrysalis
Jivan ("life")
Ambrose ("immortal")
Raven
Zoe ("life")
Valkyrie
Anastasia ("resurrection")
Isis
Isadora
Isidro
Serpentine
Vivienne ("alive")

Water and (to a lesser extent) fire names:

River
Ocean
Oceanus
India ("river")
Rain
Delphine ("dolphin, womb")
Delphino
Coral
Coraline
Tempest ("storm")
Rosmerta ("great provider")
Coventina
Mortimer ("still water")
Lotus
Tallulah ("leaping waters")
Merlin ("sea fortress")
Kittiwake
Undine ("wave")
Dover ("the waters")
Rumi ("current/flow" or "water")
Leviathan ("sea monster")
Ember
Draco

Time names:

October
Octave
Octavia
Octavian
November
Autumn
Autumnus
Hachi ("eight," because it's the eighth sign.)

Red, blue, and green names:

Roux
Ruby
Auburn
Fox
Blue
Azure
Turquoise
Sappho ("sapphire")
Forest
Jade
Viridian ("green")
Emerald
Midori ("green")

Attribute names:

Belladonna ("beautiful woman")
Secret
Rune ("secret")
Constant
Constance
True
Truly
Fortuna ("fortunate, lucky")
Maeve ("intoxicating")
Pia ("pious")
Mohandas ("bewitching")
Mohan
Boniface ("good fate")
Theodoric ("ruler of the people")
Velda ("power, rule")
Odysseus ("to hate")
Ulysses
Odin ("inspiration, rage, frenzy")
Vera ("true")
Verabel
Verity
Perseverance

Other ideas:

Opal
North
Wolf
Wolfgang
Marceline
Berry
Natalie
Thor
Thora
Faline
Cloud
Lulu
Aquilo
Caspian
Bryony
Lorelei
Audra
Howard
Firebrace
Edward
Chester
Alexander
Alexandra
Alastair
Ivy
Katherine
Whisper
Eve
Balthazar
Faramond

Artists Names from Our Age

Banksy graffiti

I love perusing round-ups of art inspired names. Nook of names has an extensive one, and there's a few on Nameberry. There's even a list of the names of artists' children. Here's the thing though: all of your references are so old. What about the artists that are making stuff now?

"Sunflower Seeds" by Ai Weiwei

A confession: I love contemporary art. I went to London to study contemporary art in college. The Whitney Biennial was one of my favorite museum experiences. I'm always the one who is explaining the value of this type of art when my family and friends "don't get it."

"Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, Blue and Death" by Takashi Murakami

I get why people are more comfortable using the names of artsy and bohemian people from the past. They have the weight of history on their side. They are, for the most part, no longer controversial as their work has been integrated into mainstream society. Also, artwork of the past is easier to understand. Most people understand why an impressionist painting has value. Not everyone understands why an empty room with the light turning on an off has value.

But I love that artwork has broadened out into objects and experiences that cannot be easily bought and sold. On top of that, the art world is a lot more international with a lot for women artists than it used to be.

So I found some inspiring names of artists who are working and in museums now, or at least very recently. I'm sure there are way more than this.

Ai. Ai Weiwei, Chinese.

Anish. Anish Kapoor, Indian.

Anselm. Anselm Kiefer, German.

Aurel. Aurel Schmidt, Canadian.

Banksy. Banksy, British.

Barney. Matthew Barney, American.

Cattelan. Maurizio Cattelan, Italian.

Chantal. Chantal Akerman, Belgian.

Christo. Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Bulgarian and French.

Cornelia. Cornelia Konrads, German.

Crow. Rosson Crow, American.

Cy. Cy Twombly, American.

Dinos. Jake & Dinos Chapman, British.

Drury. Drury Brennan, American.

Elmgreen. Elmgreen & Dragset, Danish and Norwegian.

Emin. Tracey Emin, British.

Ernesto. Ernesto Neto, Brazilian.

Felice. Felice Varini, Swiss.

Goldin. Nan Goldin, American.

Grayson. Grayson Perry, British.

Hebru. Hebru Brantley, American.

Hirst. Damien Hirst, British.

July. Miranda July, American.

Kehinde. Kehinde Wiley, American.

Koons. Jeff Koons, American.

Lewitt. Sol Lewitt, American.

Lucian. Lucian Freud, German-British.

McQueen. Alexander McQueen, British.

Marina. Marina Abramovic, Serbian.

Maurizio. See Cattelan.

Miranda. See July.

Miroslaw. Miroslaw Balka, Polish.

Munro. Bruce Munro, British.

Murakami. Takashi Murakami, Japanese.

Nan. See Goldin.

Neo. Neo Rauch, German.

Neto. See Ernesto.

Olafur. Olafur Eliasson, Danish-Icelandic.

Orozco. Gabriel Orozco, Mexican.

Pipilotti. Pipilotti Rist, Swiss.

Quinn. Marc Quinn, British.

Rirkrit. Rirkrit Tiravanija, Argentinian.

Riusuke. Riusuke Fukahori, Japanese.

Rosson. See Crow.

Saber. SABER, American.

Sanford. Sanford Biggers, American.

Sherman. Cindy Sherman, American.

Shirazeh. Shirazeh Houshiary, Iranian.

Shirin. Shirin Neshat, Iranian.

Subodh. Subodh Gupta, Indian.

Sunny. Soo Sunny Park, Korean.

Takashi. See Murakami.

Tomokazu. Tomokazu Matsuyama, Japanese.

Turk. Gavin Turk, British.

Yulia. Yulia Brodskaya, Russian.

Viola. Bill Viola, American

Wangechi. Wangechi Mutu, Kenyan.

Weiwei. See Ai.

Wilding. Alison Wilding, British.

Wolfgang. Wolfgang Tillmans, German.

Zaha. Zaha Hadid, Iraqi.

Obviously, this must inspire some combos:

Rosson Wilding

Miranda Shirin

Wolfgang Quinn

July Christo

Nan Aurel

Banksy Sherman

Grayson Neo

Viola Sunny

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Name Magpie: Back to School

Happy October! I missed September, so I'll just be a name magpie every second month, okay? Good.

Like a lot of people, I am busy being a student again. I'm in the middle of getting a TEFL certification. If you're not familiar with that initialism, it's training for teaching English in foreign countries. Which means that instead of writing here, I have been relearning grammar terms and researching countries. But Bewitching Names and Curious Ideas will be international! Isn't that exciting?

Until then, I've been finding new names in the nooks and crannies of the Internet and in my daily wanderings.

Blackery. This one is a surname that I had never heard before. It seems like many parents and name enthusiasts are looking for new and interesting surnames to use in the first spot, and this one fits the bill. It's kind of like Bellamy, but with more bite.

Calytrix. Found by Mer de Noms, it's the name of a genus of a group of plants.

Tearose. It is a little bit too cute for my taste, but it makes a whimsical middle name. Or maybe a name for a fairy.

Amphora. I thought this sounded like a beautiful name, but then I found out that it's the proper term for the Ancient Greek vases with the long necks. Well, I guess if Calico can be a name, so can Amphora.

Plover. It means "belonging to rain," and it's the name of a type of bird. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I live in an area with a lot of rain, but I'm really digging this.

Simrin. I have heard of this name before, but I am having some trouble finding information for it. My Google-fu suggests that it might be from India, but I'm not all that convinced. I'm posting it here in the hopes that someone else might know something about it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elemental Name Game

Do you love baby name games as much as I do? Of course you do! That's why you're here, on a name enthusiast blog! I especially love name games in which you have to build a sibling set using specific parameters. So I decided to come up with one of my own.

This is the Elemental Name Game. Here are the steps:

1) Go to this website. Make sure it's set to one eight-sided dice with one roll. Or if you happen to own one eight-sided dice you can just use that.

2) Roll the dice to determine the number of additions to your family.

To make this easier to follow I'll play along: I rolled a 5. I get five additions to my family.

3) The next roll determines who you add to your family. Each number of the dice represents a different outcome.

1: A boy.
2: A girl.
3: Boy/boy twins.
4: Girl/girl twins.
5: Boy/girl twins.
6: Triplets of any gender.
7: A cat.
8: A dog.

So even though I rolled a 5, I might still get more children than that if I wind up getting twins multiple times.

Okay, so I rolled a 7. So I have a new kitty.

4) This is the part where names and elements come in. Each number of the dice represents an element that the name you pick must be inspired by.

1: Water
2: Fire
3: Earth
4: Air
5: Spirit
6: Metal
7: Wood
8: Void

These might need some explanation.

So coming up with water, fire, earth, and air names should be pretty easy for most people. The spirit element (considered the most important element in Wiccan tradition, and is also found in Hinduism and Buddhism) is more open to interpretation. Because I'm a Wiccan, I associate the spirit with especially "witchy" names, or names that have to do with life, death and rebirth. A Christian person might associate this element with biblical names or names that have to do with light and purity.

Metal and wood are both classical elements from Chinese philosophy. These are self explanatory. I tend to include minerals and gemstones with the metal because there are only so many metal names I can come up with. The wood element would inspire names of trees, or names that mean "tree."

The void is another complicated one. Most of the time it's linked with the spirit element, but for our purposes we're splitting them up. The biggest void I know would be Outer Space, so I tend to pick celestial names for this one.

Continuing on with my personal game, I rolled a 5. So my new kitty must have a name that has something to do with the spirit element. I'm going to go with Ghost. A cool name that I would never give a human child, but works great for a furry baby.

5) And you just repeat the process with the number of family additions you got in the beginning. So Ghost was the first of five additions that I'm allowed. I have four more.

For my second roll I got a 7 again. Apparently my first cat was lonely. I roll again and get a 1. My cat must have a name inspired by water. Hmm. Let's go with Otter. So my cats are Ghost and Otter.

So am I doomed to be the crazy cat lady? That would be funny if I got cats over and over again. But my third roll is a 6. Triplets. So what element do I have to use as inspiration for their names? I roll again and get a 4: air. I'm going to go with Zephyr Paloma, Vox Mohan, and Kestrel Augustus. Zephyr is a minor Greek god of the west wind, Vox is Latin for "voice," and Kestrel is a type of hawk. I decided not to stick with the air theme for the middle names and just picked ones that I like. You can try to stick with the element for both names if you want.

My fourth roll is 2, so after my triplets I have a baby girl. My next roll is a 7, so her name has to be a wood name. I'm going to go with Maple Calliope.

For my fifth and final roll I get a 1. A baby boy. I roll again and get a 5. So I need a spirit name again. So what will go with his siblings Zephyr, Vox, Kestrel, and Maple? I think I'll choose Jove Delphinio. Jove is another name for the Roman god Jupiter.

So that's my elemental family. My daughters Zephyr and Maple; my sons Vox, Kestrel, and Jove; and my two cats Ghost and Otter.

Now you can try the Elemental Name Game. You can post your results in the comments or on facebook. Hopefully it will be fun, and let me know if you would like some more name games!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Libra the Balancer

"Libra" by Mikalojus Ciurlionis

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist and Libra

Many modern Pagans prefer to pick names based on astrological signs. Yes, I know I just finished doing a series of posts very similar to this on the old blog, but this time I'm not limiting myself to thirteen names. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names by K. M. Sheard is an excellent resource for finding names to go with specific astrological signs, so if you want even more options than the ones I list here go find that book.

Today, the sun enters Libra (roughly September 22 to October 22). Libra's symbol is the scale. Traditionally scales are a symbol of justice, laws, and civilization. This gives some insight into the character of Libras. Libras are generally thought to be very sociable and peace-loving. They can be very idealistic and romantic. This is an air sign, so they are very good at communication. Libras strive for balance and will try to be everything to everyone. Unfortunately, this is how Libras can get a reputation for lying. They feel justified in not telling the truth so long as it doesn't rock the boat. Some people can be annoyed by their lack of directness and apparent unwillingness to stand for any one side.

Okay, this one is a little difficult in terms of rounding up names, but I'll do my best.

Balance/Harmony names:

Harmony
Atalanta ("equal in weight")
Concordia ("harmony")
Concord
Unity

Air names:

Bird
Birdie
Anemone
Zephyr
Sirocco
Breeze
Aria
Whisper
Vayu
Keanu ("cool breeze")
Boreas
Kite
Feather
Gossamer
Kestrel
Lark
Halcyon
Quill
Vox ("voice")

Time names:

September
Septima
Septimus
October
Octave
Octavia
Octavian

Green, Pink, and Purple names:

Lavender
Emerald
Esmeralda
Olive
Jade
Rose
Rosaline
Coralie
Forrest
Llinos ("green finch")
Pembe ("pink")
Violet
Midori ("green")
Plum
Lilac
Garden
Viridian ("green")

Attribute names:

Evander ("good man")
Placido ("placid")
Placida
Pax ("peace")
Paz
Salem ("peace")
Salome
Eloquence
Serenity
Serena
Stellan ("calm")
Pia ("pious")
Clemency ("mercy")
Clementine
Clement
Silence
Miran ("peace" or "world")
Frida ("peace")
Dragomir ("precious and peaceful")
Shanti ("quiet," "peace," "tranquility")
Belle ("beauty")
Aoife ("beauty")
Eulalie ("well spoken")
Shiloh ("tranquil")
Zola ("quiet," "tranquil")

Other ideas:

Opal
Caraway
Symphony
Clover
Sabin
Sabine
Lazarus
Isadora
Isadore
Isidro
Sonnet
Alma
Gita
Copper
Noah
Avalon
Tallulah
Echo
Pandora
Carmel
Rhiannon
Vashti
Absalom
Olivia
Columbus
Columbia
Myrtle
Urban
Rainer
Geoffrey

Harvest of Fruit

"The Autumn" by Alphonse Mucha

Blessed Mabon!

Mabon is the only Wiccan holiday that is not based on an ancient equivalent. That being said, the Autumnal Equinox is an official holiday in a number of countries (in China the Autumnal Equinox is the moon's birthday, for example). Mabon is the second of three harvest holidays. While Lughnasadh focused mostly on grains, Mabon focuses mostly on the harvest of fruits.

This holiday is named after the mythical Welsh hero Mabon. He is also a character in Arthurian legend and is most likely based off of an ancient deity but we have no solid proof of that. This idea of using his name for this holiday was coined by Aiden Kelly sometime around 1970. But a different deity is becoming an increasingly more popular Mabon mascot: Persephone. As you might recall, her most famous myth ends with her having to split her time between her husband (Hades/Pluto) and her mother (Demeter/Ceres). It would make sense that the equinox would be the day she has to go back to the Underworld. For many modern Pagans, Persephone is a symbol of balance between darkness and light. This makes her a very apt choice for the autumnal equinox since day and night are the same length.

Since there is no ancient Mabon holiday to gain inspiration from, how do modern Pagans celebrate?
  • Mabon is sometimes referred to as "the Wiccan's Thanksgiving," and for a good reason. Mabon is all about the feast. Traditional foods include breads, berries, nuts, apples, grapes, pomegranates, goose, mutton, acorns, pork, potatoes, carrots, squash, and pumpkin.
  • A Mabon feast also involves the making and/or drinking of alcohol, traditionally wine and ale. If you're not fond of alcohol, celebrate with apple cider.
  • But "the Wiccan's Thanksgiving" is also called that because we use this holiday to count our blessings. This is a good time to perform rituals to honor the things that we're grateful for.
  • Because this is the first day of autumn, many modern Pagans enjoy making decorations from fallen leaves, acorns, pinecones, and feathers. Altars made during this time of the year usually involve the Cornucopia, or the Horn of Plenty.
  • A common practice is leaving apples on gravesites to honor the dead. Personally I feel like that sort of thing is more appropriate for Samhain, but it seems like I'm a little bit outnumbered. Visiting the graves of ancestors on the Autumnal Equinox is also a tradition in Japan.

Here are some inspiring fall names:

Mythical beings associated with the season:

Mabon

Persephone (Greek/Roman)

Modron (Welsh)

Dionysus (Roman. Dion could be a good shortened form.)

Thor (Norse)

Morgan (Welsh/Cornish)

Hermes (Greek)

Hotei (Japanese)

Pomona (Roman)

Epona (Gallo-Roman. Also consider its literary variant Eponine.)

Musidora/Musidore (Greek. For all the muses.)

Demeter (Greek)

Ceres (Roman)

Thoth (Egyptian)

The Green Man (English folkloric. Perhaps Greenman would work better?)

Other suggestions:

September

Septima

Septimus

Autumn

Autumnus

Harvest

Acorn

Vineyard

Grapevine

Rue

Hazel

Apple

Pomeline ("fruit")

Maple

Garland

Sage

Brandy

Russet

Peridot

Garnet

Sienna

Vinicio ("wine")

Calix ("wine cup")

Michael (Michaelmas is a harvest holiday celebrated by some Christians in honor of St. Michael.)

Amethyst

Marigold

Violet

Indigo

Blackbird

Clove

Kestrel

Thistle

Cedar

Peregrine

Hawk

Wolf

Wolfgang

Topaz

Fun combo time:

Hazel Eponine

Mabon Vinicio

Michael Wolfgang

Violet Blackbird

Kestrel Pomeline

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Virgo the Maiden


Painting of Diana.
 
"The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything."
--Johann von Goethe, writer, statesman, and Virgo.

Many modern Pagans prefer to pick names based on astrological signs. Yes, I know I just finished doing a series of posts very similar to this on the old blog, but this time I'm not limiting myself to thirteen names. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names by K. M. Sheard is an excellent resource for finding names to go with specific astrological signs, so if you want even more options than the ones I list here go find that book.

Today the sun sign enters Virgo (generally it lasts from August 22nd to September 22nd, depending on the year). Virgos are traditionally known for having a purity of spirit and a love of knowledge. They're very detail oriented and love research. This is an earth sign, so that immediately means that Virgos are very practical. This sign is symbolized by the maiden (Pagans in general are not fond of the word "virgin" so I replaced it with maiden because it means the same thing) which is meant to represent their modesty. They're very self contained and don't like to be in the spotlight. Virgos are also known for being fussy about their surroundings and very aware of their bodies.

Just a word about name selection for Virgos: unlike the Leos, it is unlikely that they will appreciate a name that sticks out from the crowd. So unless there are more flamboyant signs in the rest of their astrological chart (and I included some more unique options for that reason) it's probably better to stick with more "sensible" names.

Maiden (or young man) names:

Cora
Virgil
Vestal
Junius
Dido
Fawn
Rhian
Azra
Mabyn
Owain
Galadriel ("maiden crowned with a radiant garland")

Virgin goddesses:

Artemis
Diana
Cynthia
Athene
Minerva
Pallas
Ariadne
Elettra
Kore
Mary
Sophia
Vesta

Earth names:

Gaia
Octavian ("eighth")
Octavie
Ottavia
Eartha
Demeter ("earth mother")
Ceres ("to grow")
Gardner
Garden
Sita ("furrow")
George ("farmer")
Georgia
North
Terra
Harvest
Meadow

Time names:

August
Augustus
Augusta
September
Septima
Septimus
Sistine ("Sixth," because it's the sixth sign in the zodiac.)

Green, Yellow, and Brown names:

Lourdes (arguably "pale yellow")
Mahogany
Copper
Cypress
Viridian
Sage
Jade
Holly
Russell
Olive
Amber
Saffron
Xanthe ("fair hair")
Duncan ("brown-haired")

Attribute names:

True
Truly
Valor
Ophelia ("help")
Ophelie
Cosima ("order, decency")
Cosmina
Cosmo
Cosimo
Eulalie ("well spoken")
Esperanza ("to hope")
Esperance
Remedy
Remedios
Valentine ("strong")
Valentino
Valentina
Clemency ("mercy")
Constant
Constance
Erastus ("beloved")
Modestus
Vimala ("pure")
Mabel ("loving")

Other ideas:

Paloma
Orchard
Huckleberry
Maple
Juniper
Bryony
Florence
Delphine
Delphino
Pomona
Arcadia
Arcadio
Avalon
Echo
Magdalene
Marigold
Opal
Nao
Rosalind
Siddhartha
Mercury
Lazarus
Peridot
Fabrice
Orlando
Sebastian
Percival
Cyprian
Raphael
Raphaella

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Name Profile: Raven

It's no secret why this was the first name profile I did back when I started my first blog in 2010. It is an incredibly popular name in the modern Pagan world. If you go to a Pagan event or a Wiccan forum, it's likely you'll find about a dozen Ravens.

Even if you're not magickally inclined, you probably have a picture in your mind of what a person named Raven looks like. A woman with long, flowing, jet black hair. Perhaps she's a bit of a goth girl (like Raven in Teen Titans), or perhaps a hippy. That's probably the stereotypical image that a lot of people have.

It's really not hard to see why this name is such a favorite in Pagan circles. This jet black bird has played a role in mythology throughout North America and Europe. Also, it's just an awesome animal all around.

The raven (pronounced "RAY-vehn" for you non-native English speakers out there) is an intelligent and curious animal, having one of the largest brains in the bird kingdom. They are highly adaptable and eat almost anything. They can mimic human speech like parrots. Ravens usually travel in mated pairs, and are devoted to their families. They horde shiny objects like jewelry, pieces of metal, and shiny stones, possibly to impress other ravens.

There is a wide variety of depictions of ravens in mythology and culture. In most Western societies, the raven was considered a bad omen, due to it's diet of dead animal carcasses and it's all-black plumage. A raven is the famous bearer of bad news in Edgar Allen Poe's classic poem "The Raven." The Norse god Odin has two ravens named Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory), who fly all over the world, observing everything.

Personally, the name appeals to me because of Haida/Tlingit mythology (I've lived in the Pacific Northwest longer than I've lived anywhere). The Raven is described as a cunning trickster god who loves to change things up and enjoy life. He's also a bit of a horny bastard. In one story a fisherman beats Raven to a bloody pulp and throws him down a latrine when he discovered him locked in an intimate embrace with his wife. But the most known and retold story is "The Raven Steals the Light," in which he conspires to take the stars, the moon, and the sun away from an old man hording them in boxes. Raven transforms himself into a single hemlock needle that floats down a stream and into the old man's daughter's basket. The daughter becomes thirsty and swallows the needle, and in nine months Raven is born in human form. While in the form of a boy, he cajoles his now-grandfather to give him the boxes, which he immediately opens thus releasing the light. Whereupon he instantly transforms back into his true form and flies away.

If we let conventional opinion have any say in the matter, Raven is a feminine name. According to social security records, Raven has charted as a girls name since 1977, and it has never left. It's highest year was in 1993 at #139. It's popularity has dwindled since then, it is now at #543. It is worth stating that this name was particularly popular amongst African Americans, Raven Symone is a famous example.

This doesn't mean that boys named Raven are completely unheard of. Raven even appeared on the social security listings for boys between 1997 and 2002. It's best year was in 1999 at #812.

As I said before, this name is pretty common in modern Pagan circles and a few of those people have achieved a level of notoriety. Raven Grimassi is the nome de plume of a Wiccan author who help launch the Stregheria tradition, which he described as "the witch sect of Old Italy." And he's a man. I would say that in Modern Pagan circles, the name Raven is equally used by both men and women. Another well known Pagan is Wiccan author and lecturer Silver Ravenwolf.

I think there is a little bit of a cultural divide between Pagans and non-Pagans in regards to this name. When talking to other name enthusiasts I found out that when most people picture a Raven their first thought is the color (raven can be used as a more poetic term for "black".) I'm willing to bet that most Pagans like it because of the bird and all of its mythical implications.

By the way, all of these dozens of witchy Ravens that I'm talking about are adults. I have yet to meet a child from a Pagan family named Raven. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps the name is a bit tired. Perhaps it screams, "Hey I'm a witch!" a little too much.

But that is exactly why I love this name for a boy. I would argue that it's fresher and cooler for a boy. There's a bit of a rock star edge to it. And I always love to bend gender expectations.

Some combos:

Raven Samsara

Raven Jove

Ptolemy Raven

Bianca Raven

Related names:

Ravenel (Not etymologically related to ravens, but c'mon.)

Ravenna (See above.)

Corvus

Bertrand ("bright raven")

Bran

Corbin ("little crow" or "little raven")

Fiachra

Wolfram ("wolf-raven")

Draven (If you want to be generous.)